Kinetic architecture is a concept through which buildings are designed to allow parts of the structure to move, without reducing overall structural integrity. A building’s capability for motion can be used just to enhance its aesthetic qualities, respond to environmental conditions, and/or perform functions that would be impossible for a static structure. The possibilities for practical implementations of kinetic architecture increased sharply in the late 20th century due to advances in mechanics, electronics, and robotics. Continue reading
Conceived at a time when nature and utopian ideals were becoming increasingly prevalent in American culture and modern architecture, the Northern California community of Sea Ranch was developed in the early 1960s by architect and planner Al Boeke. Boeke envisioned a community that would preserve the area’s natural, rugged beauty and coastline, and would be based on ecological principles with minimal impact on the native environment. Continue reading
Weathering steel, often referred to by the generic trademark CorTen steel, is a group of steel alloys developed to eliminate the need for painting and form a stable, ruddy appearance after a curing period by exposure to weather. In architectural applications it is used most often as wall and/or roof cladding. Continue reading
As living beings, we are our environment. Design plays a significant role in human health, and the way that we configure and manipulate elements in a space can mean more to its inhabitants than whether they like the color of the walls, or the texture of the carpet. On the most basic level certain environmental factors have universal effects on all of us – i.e. daylight & circadian rhythm. In other cases these environmental factors are very personal and specific, based on our genetic wiring. Genetics set the stage and the environment activates those genes in different ways. Continue reading
One of my favorite architectural monuments is British Sir Edwin Lutyens Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, commemorating the lives lost at the first Battle of the Somme, fought 100-years-on now, in May 1916.
Among his other credentials, Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) was one of the principal architects of the cemeteries and memorials of the First World War. Continue reading
There are many reasons to control the amount of sunlight admitted into a building. In warm, sunny climates excess solar gain will result in overheating, in cold and temperate climates winter sun entering south-facing windows can contribute to passive solar heating, and in any event controlling and diffusing natural illumination will improve daylighting. Continue reading
“The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.”
Sir Christopher Wren, 1632-1723
There are as many criteria for defining design excellence in architecture as there are architectural designs. And climbing to the summit of design excellence is analogous to that of climbing Mount Everest. Yet in architectural design there are infinite Everests which beckon: which Everest should we climb? Continue reading
If you were asked to list the main criteria you would like for your dream home, what would they be?
I’m guessing that high up on your wish list might be for your home to be situated in a location with a breathtaking view – perhaps by the sea, in the mountains, countryside or in a forest. And to be able to enjoy the scenery with a panoramic vista of it through your windows. We are all attracted to rooms that have an amazing view. Continue reading
We all want to add more space to our home, yet it is a luxury and can be a particularly expensive one. Many of us dream of the day when we can expand our homes, add an extension or convert an attic. It takes no effort to imagine how life could be less chaotic and better organized if only we had a bigger living space, room for a home office, an extra bathroom or a guest bedroom. Continue reading
Architect/theorist Christopher Alexander conceptualized his Pattern #159: ‘Light On Two Sides Of Every Room’ in his 1977 book, A Pattern Language. Alexander identified that “when they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.”
He further maintained that, “this pattern, perhaps more than any other single pattern, determines the success or failure of a room.”
Why is this? Alexander does point out that his own experimentation, from which he drew his conclusions, was rather informal. But the phenomenon is very real. What is it about certain patterns of light that attract people or enhance space and volumes effectively? There are several probable reasons why a room or space with lit on two sides (bilateral daylighting) is more successful than one with light only from one side.
Firstly, bilateral lighting instinctively feels more natural. Balanced light – light coming from more than one direction – is more akin to natural light. In the great outdoors we have both direct sunlight and light from the sky itself – light coming from all different directions. This helps provide depth, giving us clear information about shapes and forms. A strong light source from one direction tends to flatten our views, providing less visual information.
Another reason could be related to brightness and contrast ratios. Take for example the case where one is engaged in conversation in a room lit by a single window, without the benefit of natural side lighting. Because that person’s face is in harsh contrast, it’s more difficult to see facial expressions, giving us considerably less information about their mood or response. This in turn is thought to induce some amount of psychological discomfort, which we in turn project into feelings about the room itself.
The third culprit is glare. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America [IESNA] identifies glare as two sensations, disability glare and discomfort glare. Disability glare is defined as “the effect of stray light in the eye whereby visibility and visual performance are reduced”. Discomfort glare is defined as “glare that produces discomfort. It does not necessarily interfere with visual performance or visibility”.
Researchers know that the relative location of a light source is a factor contributing to discomfort glare. In the present example, the high contrast between the window aperture and the surrounding surfaces is much higher in a unilaterally lit room than one which is bilaterally lit. The direct impacts of glare are eyestrain and discomfort. Indirect physiological impacts of glare can include red and itchy eyes, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and fatigue.
Here are excerpts from A Pattern Language, Pattern #159: Light On Two Sides Of Every Room:
When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.
Locate each room so that it has outdoor space outside it on at least two sides, and then place windows in these outdoor walls so that natural light falls into every room from more than one direction.
The arrangement of daylight in a room, and the presence of windows on two sides, is fundamental. If you build a room with light on one side only, you can be almost certain that you are wasting your money. People will stay out of that room if they can possibly avoid it. Of course, if all the rooms are lit from one side only, people will have to use them. But we can be fairly sure that, they are subtly uncomfortable there, always wishing they weren’t there, wanting to leave – just because we are so sure of what people do when they do have the choice.